I'm not convinced that movies now are any more or less banal than they've ever been, but I believe an appropriate response to Caine would be something along the lines of the one Caine himself gave when someone asked him about the several-sub-basement-levels-below-staggeringly-awful Jaws: The Revenge:
"I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."
Well put, Sir Michael. As it happens, I recently picked up Caine's autobiography (the excellently titled What's It All About? which seems like a rather odd title at first, but try saying it in Michael Caine's voice and you'll get it.) for a couple bucks used and have been enjoying it very much. It's hard for me to invest valuable reading time in non-Middle East related materials, so when something like this catches my fancy I tend to go with it.
The book paints a great picture of swinging Sixties London, contains some very entertaining stories about Caine's friendships with Terence Stamp and Sean Connery, a particularly funny anecdote about Caine hanging out with John Lennon at some wealthy socialite's party where no one knew who they were and Lennon posing as Caine's assistant, and, of course, about making his movies.
A few favorites which I think give a good sense of Caine's talent:
The Ipcress File (1965)- Based on Len Deighton's novel, Caine stars as Harry Palmer, the anti-Bond.
Get Carter (1971)- Think of the hardest hard man you've ever seen in a movie. Then think of him making Jack Carter's breakfast, washing and waxing Jack Carter's car, and picking up Jack Carter's dry cleaning. That's how hard Michael Caine is in this movie.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)- One of Woody Allen's best, Caine's performance won him an Oscar, which he couldn't accept in person because he was off earning the money to build that house.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)- Light, old-timey, con-man comedy. You want to know how cool Michael Caine is? Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars is Michael Caine's butler in this movie. That's how cool Michael Caine is.